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On the eve of Ukraine’s Independence Day, Presbyterians pray and lament the awful aftermath of the Russian invasion

The Belarus-Ukraine-Russia Mission Network leads online worship for the PC(USA)’s national staff

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Independence Day for Ukraine is Thursday. It’s the day Ukraine celebrates its independence from the former Soviet Union. (Photo by Viktoria Oseyko via Unsplash)

LOUISVILLE — On Wednesday during Chapel service, about 50 members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) national staff prayed for and lamented Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which occurred 546 days ago, and the resulting warfare. Thursday is Ukrainian Independence Day, when the nation celebrates its independence from the former Soviet Union, which dates back to 1991.

Two members of the Belarus-Ukraine-Russia Mission Network, the Rev. Hank Bellomy and the Rev. Connie Weaver, helped lead Wednesday’s online service, with help from Ellen Smith, a mission co-worker serving Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Poland.

Worshipers lit candles and sang “We Pray for Peace,” which Presbyterian hymnwriter the Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette set to the tune “FINLANDIA” following last year’s Russian invasion. Smith read classic lament passages from the prophet Jeremiah found in Lamentations 2:11-13 and 18-19.

“Even as we lament the war taking place in Ukraine, we know there are wars raging throughout the world, and we lament those as well,” said Bellomy, pastor of Beulaville Presbyterian Church in Beulaville, North Carolina, who offered a homily during the service. “Jeremiah wrote his lamentation even amidst the devastation, expressing his sorrow at the destruction of the temple.”

That “doesn’t sound much different” from the way many people are now feeling, Bellomy said. “Do we lament like Jeremiah called Israel to lament? Like the Ukrainians do? Like the citizens of other war-ravaged countries?” The apostle Paul tells us to weep with those who weep, Bellomy pointed out, “and so we strive to lament. We mourn the atrocities and the devastation, the loss of life, even the necessary actions of outside countries. We mourn the lack of action by others as well.”

Still, “we see the work of God” in regional partners and in the efforts of peacemakers. “We see Ukrainians staying behind to care for their fellow countrymen and women,” Bellomy said. “It’s difficult to know how we can work for peace in the region. The work seems great, but the efforts seem to only scratch the surface of what’s needed.”

The Rev. Hank Bellomy (Contributed photo)

What we can do is continue to lament “the war, the destruction, the death, the pain and the devastation” that has occurred, and “the severing of relationships because of what the war has done,” Bellomy said. We continue our lament for the people of Ukraine and the people of Russia, Belarus and the region, Bellomy said, “and we pray from the depths of our anguish. We pray fervently, because that’s what our ministry partners beseech us to do. They experience the unity of the body of Christ through our prayers and our lamentations. God gives them perseverance even in the face of such difficulty, and so we pour out our hearts to God so that peace will prevail.”

“Let us lament with watchful eyes,” Bellomy said, “and pray that it will all come to a peaceful close, a peace that only the Lord can bring.”

To conclude the 20-minute service, Bellomy chose this vision from the prophet Zechariah: “For there shall be a sowing of peace; the vine shall yield its fruit, the ground shall give its produce, and the skies shall give their dew, and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.”

“Alleluia! Amen,” Bellomy added.

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